November 2nd, 2012

Can Flood Damaged Prints Be Saved?

Hurricane Sandy caused flooding of gallery storage areas in New York and elsewhere earlier this week. Paul Messier, a Boston-based expert on the conservation of photographs and works on paper, has worked as a consultant to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and other institutions. He also assisted museums and historical societies in the Gulf Coast area with restoration efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

PDN: Have you been getting calls from New York galleries?
Paul Messier: Honestly, no. I know there was a lot of devastation in the Chelsea area. I’ve heard from other conservators about individual salvage projects. But I have not been contacted yet, which is not surprising because the electricity is still off.

PDN: What’s the prognosis for recovering flood-damaged photographic prints?
PM: It’s highly dependent upon the photo process. Some photographic processes or more resilient than others. It’s also highly dependent upon the duration of the exposure to water, and it’s highly dependent upon the response. For example, things moved into freezer storage while still wet would have a much better prognosis for successful outcome. (more…)